Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) said Tuesday that he will not be endorsing Glenn Grothman, the outspoken conservative his party has chosen to replace him in Congress.
"Why would I endorse a person who has said that if in two years people said he was 'just like Petri' he would be insulted?" Petri told the Fond Du Lac Reporter on Tuesday. "I don't want to smother him with love or anything like that."
Petri and Grothman, while in the same party, are hardly birds of a feather. Grothman has gained a reputation for his staunch conservative positions in the Wisconsin Senate, while Petri has been known as a moderate during his 35 years in office.
Nevertheless, Petri recently co-hosted a fundraiser for Grothman and donated $5,000 to his campaign. The congressman insisted, however, that it was all out of protocol.
"This is fairly normal and what is expected," Petri said.
Grothman has made national headlines for wanting to bar Wisconsin public schools from mentioning homosexuality, calling Kwanzaa a fake holiday and claiming that earning money is more important to men than women.
Grothman has been critical of Petri and announced before the congressman declared his retirement that he would jump in the race for a primary challenge. In a statement proclaiming his candidacy in April, Grothman said Petri is a "decent, genial person" but added that "he does not have the sense of urgency which the above statistics should engender."
When asked about Grothman's criticisms by the Fond Du Lac Reporter, Petri replied, "Grothman said if the GOP turns down the path Petri did, he will go against it. I always feel you want to reach out and work with people -- that has been my approach to both parties."
During his House campaign, Grothman has taken a more low-key approach and generally avoided making the types of controversial statements that so often land him in the news. He has also turned down a slew of debate requests, limiting himself to just three appearances with his opponent, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris (D).
Petri added that he believes Harris has done a "fine job" as county executive.
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